Food of the Algarve
From the sea come fresh fish and seafood, the main ingredients of the Algarve's cuisine. Add to this vegetables and fruit, perfectly ripened by the sun, and you have the elements for many unforgettable food experiences.
Let's start with what the ocean has to offer, such as seafood: clams, oysters, tellinas and capetondas are particularly tasty when cooked in a pan or grilled.
Perceves ao natural (lepadi al naturale), arroz de lingueirão (rice with winkles), feijoada de búzios (beans with whelks), xerém de conquilhas (a kind of polenta with tellinas) and açorda de marisco (baked bread flavoured with garlic and coriander and garnished with seafood) are mouth-watering dishes.
A very popular clam recipe, amêijoas na cataplana, is one of the most popular traditional dishes. Its secret lies in the use of the cataplana, a copper pot of Arab origin that retains all the flavour and aroma of the cooked ingredients.
To add flavour to the dishes, there is nothing better than a little salt from the local salt pans, perhaps the salt flower itself. These gastronomic specialities can be enjoyed in many restaurants and during the summer there are seafood festivals in Olhão and Faro, near the Ria Formosa, where they are found in abundance.
Any fresh fish, grilled or slowly barbecued in the fishermen's way, is a delicacy. Other specialities include carapaus alimados (boiled mackerel) and sardinha assada (grilled sardine), which can be eaten anywhere but is very special in Portimão.
It is delicious with bread or in a montanheira salad, made with tomatoes to which oregano gives it a special flavour.
From the tuna in steaks or in brine from Tavira to the octopus, which in Santa Luzia is served in various ways - cooked in wine, breaded, grilled, with rice or simply baked, as well as the tasty squid and cuttlefish, the Algarve boasts an extraordinary menu.
In the Barrocal, in the transition zone between the coast and the mountains, the type of food varies, with more meat eaten.
Such as galinha cerejada (stewed chicken), cozido de grão (boiled meat with chickpeas), or sausages, to which fairs and festivals are dedicated in São Brás de Alportel and Querença.
Agriculture is one of the main activities in this area, and the trees, which produce the essential fruit for the preparation of liqueurs and traditional sweets, give a special beauty to the fields when in bloom. The almond trees in blossom in February are one of the emblematic images of the Algarve.
Oranges are eaten in their natural state or in juice, while almonds, figs and carob are used in the preparation of popular desserts.
These include dom rodrigo, which comes wrapped in colourful foil, or morgado, a cake that is usually garnished with regional motifs and almond blossoms, and maçapão (marzipan), sweets made of almond paste in the shape of fruit and vegetables.
There are also other specialities not to be missed, such as stuffed figs, or cheese and trufas de figo (fig truffles). Medronho (strawberry tree brandy) or fig distillates and bitter almond liqueur are excellent digestives after a good meal.
Indeed, the best of the Algarve is served at the table: in a small, open-air restaurant on the beach, or in fine restaurants run by world-famous chefs. It is an experience not to be missed and to be repeated many times!